First, an enormous Happy Birthday to Grace. We love our brilliant, creative, beautiful, loving, independent and deep-thinking girl, and can't quite believe she is eleven.
Second, an apology for being away so long. In the interim since I last had time to write, we have been to Geneva, Zurich, Lichtenstein (for 15 minutes), and Innsbruck. Our visits there gave us just enough time to confirm our stereotypes: "Wow, Swiss people really are super-organized!" and "Whoa, could those Italians be any more friendly? Or loud?"
We also visited with friends from back home in three different cities, and all of us (including yours truly) have gone skiing in the Austrian Alps. We drove through the Brenner Pass on our way through Italy to France, and celebrated Valentine's Day in a hotel in Genoa.
And, perhaps as payback for all my guilty gratitude when Bill threw out his back, mine has gone out in quite a spectacularly painful fashion. It has been humbling to feel myself moving just as slowly and awkwardly as he was doing, just about a month ago.
But Stephanie, my best friend from elementary school, arrives with her family on the TGV in a few hours. And since it's Grace's birthday, Bill and I will somehow bake a yellow cake with chocolate frosting in the interim. I'll read the recipe, measure the ingredients, and he can do all the beating and heavy lifting (like, for example, the egg cartons and the little litre-sized bag of flour.)